Gerard Butler transforms in the epic Frank Miller adaptation
You are soon about to know all about Gerard Butler - the actor stars in the new graphic novel adaptation, 300, as King Leonidas. As the leader of the Spartans, Leonidas fought for his country with honor and valor.
Zack Snyder directed and wrote the epic Frank Miller-based film, which also stars Lena Headey, David Wenham, and Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes, the leader of Persia. We spoke with Gerard about his transformation to his body and his character. Check out what he had to say about 300:
How did you handle the changes to this shooting schedule?
Gerard Butler: You're always a flounder for a few days, especially the more of a transformation you've had to make; you have been in a way in somebody else's mind and somebody else's body. This is always a huge transformation for me and then you finish filming and one, it's the whole routine changes and suddenly you don't have to do what you did any more and it's kind of weird. You feel a little lost and you don't have to hold yourself the same way physically; I noticed in watching the video playback, even when I wasn't performing I was still walking around as the King and talking like him. I think in a way you're still talking like that and holding yourself and then you're like, 'I don't do that any more,' I can slouch again. There's definitely a period of adjustment and physical pain because I stopped training and in actual fact that's probably the worst thing I could've done; it was crazy.
What was the challenge for you to play a character in which you're marrying technology and performance?
Gerard Butler: I can't worry about technology; the challenge for me is just to give the best performance that I can. You're always aware that you're working in a different environment and for me that's - every film you do for one reason or another requires a different thought process or a different approach. And for me, it's almost leaving yourself open to that in a weird way; it's not even necessarily a technique but leaving yourself open to trying to feel, almost by osmosis this different feeling that's going on there.
Was it the character that was interesting for you when you decided to take this on or was it the whole process?
Gerard Butler: It was the whole thing; if I read a script where I had an interesting character but I wasn't really excited about the script then I wouldn't want to do it because that's happened before and I hated it. Likewise, if it was a great script but a character that I didn't love, I wouldn't want to do it. This film had it all; it was a character that I'd never come across before. Yes, I have played similar characters but I'd never come across one that really pushed the envelope in terms of what it takes to be a hero and what it takes to be a villain because, I have to say, there were times when I thought, 'Jesus these bad guys actually seem kind of nice. They're very reasonable.' There is a confidence and an arrogance about this king and even in terms of the political dealings either messengers or Xerxes that it's quite risky in terms of keeping an audience kind of in your favor. We really pushed that; there's never an apology about who they are. They stayed focused and simple and principled and they never budged on that; it doesn't really matter what actions come out of those beliefs, there's no conscience there in that respect when it comes to fighting which I loved because as an audience member I'm always saying in my head to the hero, 'Just f*ckin kill 'em, kick the sh*t out of 'em now; he's a bad dude.' And in this, that's what they do. So I think that it's really cool that at every turn it kind of goes the way you wouldn't necessarily expect and it's also a great excuse for more violence and more action.
You never feel bad for what's happening to Leonidas and his men because they're doing what they were born to do.
Gerard Butler: Now that's interesting because that was actually a very risky path to tread, because if you focus too much on these men's willingness to die in battle, then their ultimate death doesn't mean a thing because you know they're happy. I don't think that as an audience you really want to feel like that; I personally felt very sad when they died because what had happened was, in that uncompromising unwavering belief that they had that at times as I say, can push an audience to go 'Wait a minute, are these really our heroes?' By the end, you respect them for that very thing because when you finally see what happens to them, you go, 'They were true lions.' Every single one of them, in terms of their commitment, their passion, their sacrifice, I did feel bad for them. And we also had to play up, I had to go along in the belief of 'Yeah, ok maybe those men are happy to die in battle, but we want to win. We want to take these 300 men and kick the asses of a million men.' Yes, the sacrifice I knew had a deeper meaning and in fact I believe that there was a deeper meaning; in his mind, I feel that with Leonidas there was an element of mysticism and it wasn't even about these men dying for him. It was almost like he knew 2500 years later they were going to make a film about it; it's going to be a great film. There were many other things going on in his mind but at the end of the day I think the focus has to be that they believed they could win, you know; but if they died, that didn't matter.
What kind of research did you do?
Gerard Butler: No, I do historical research but I have to say my experiences as, it was the same with Zack, you do all this research and there are some great books, fictional and historical, and then general historical books about the minds of generals and the soul of battle by Victor Davis Hanson or Hanson David. You always end up to me probably 90% of where this character and where this film came from was Frank Miller's graphic novel. Often when you go too much into the past and bring up interesting facts, it only muddies the water of your own story; there's a very simple true but yet mythological tale going on there. That action story was way more complicated than what it is in the film, as is every story that you see in a film and that's for the History Channel.
300 battles its way into theaters March 9th; it's rated R.